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12-Nov-2016 18:41

Then, with the stealth of a cat-burglar, he squeezed through an access flap at the back of the shed. Standing up again, he found himself within the sumptuous Beverly Hills home of the Hollywood actor Stewart Granger. He had good reason to be on edge: not only did Granger possess a collection of firearms, but he was unlikely to give Burton a chance to explain himself.

And what would he say, anyway, if he had the misfortune to be caught? Although the Burtons were house guests of Granger and his wife Jean Simmons, they were staying in a cottage in the grounds.

None, however, seemed as beguiling as Martina Topley Bird.

Her fallen-angel voice was transfixing on Tricky's Maxinquaye album, but she has seemed as magically mythical as her name, making rare appearances on record and only now, five years after her debut, about to release her second solo album.

There are probably plenty of people who would feel at a pretty low ebb in the presence of Kanye West. The London singer-songwriter was hot stuff in 2012, the winner of that year’s BBC Sound poll, writer of a gold-selling debut album and support act for Adele on tour. “I just felt stupid sitting there with my acoustic guitar with all these producers and rappers.

It shouldn’t have been surprising that hip hop’s biggest head would have sought him out to sing on his Yeezus album at sessions in Hawaii and Paris but it left Kiwanuka feeling far out of his depth. He didn’t tell me what he wanted, he just said: ‘Do your thing and it will be good enough’. I wanted him to tell me what to do because I didn’t know how to do it.” In the end he simply left. Instead he brooded and doubted and eventually got together with a more hands-on collaborator, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, to make a new album of his own that is an absolute triumph.

The secret night-time forays went on for months — yet neither of their spouses ever suspected a thing.Eventually I pick her out: with her newly blonde hair scraped back, and wearing dark jeans and a fleece, she looks like a regular, time-pressed working mum.She practically snorts when I ask her why she likes being someone else's muse.Entering the recording studio where she is preparing for her first live appearance on Jools Holland, my eyes struggle to find her among the dark, dense plumage of speakers, drum kits and synthesizers.I am searching for the beautiful, mysterious muse who inspired Tricky, Damon Albarn, and now, on her new album, Dangermouse, aka Brian Burton, aka Mr Gnarls Barkley, to compose some of their most thrilling, hypnotic music.

The secret night-time forays went on for months — yet neither of their spouses ever suspected a thing.

Eventually I pick her out: with her newly blonde hair scraped back, and wearing dark jeans and a fleece, she looks like a regular, time-pressed working mum.

She practically snorts when I ask her why she likes being someone else's muse.

Entering the recording studio where she is preparing for her first live appearance on Jools Holland, my eyes struggle to find her among the dark, dense plumage of speakers, drum kits and synthesizers.

I am searching for the beautiful, mysterious muse who inspired Tricky, Damon Albarn, and now, on her new album, Dangermouse, aka Brian Burton, aka Mr Gnarls Barkley, to compose some of their most thrilling, hypnotic music.

His decision to open with a 10-minute song, Cold Little Heart, on which he doesn’t even sing until five minutes in, shows the extent of his newfound confidence and ambition.